Album Review: Altadore – Wandering Ghost

Wandering Ghost

Altadore, an emerging rock band out of Portland, OR, released their second EP album last month Wandering Ghost which isn’t a drastic departure from their 2012 effort Golden Hills but certainly takes the band in a different direction that fans should not only embrace but perhaps get the members a step or two closer to their goal of quitting their day jobs.

The five song album from the quartet that consists of band founder David Katz on lead vocals, guitar, and keyboards; Gabe Mouer on lead guitar, background vocals and keyboards; Matthew Hall on bass; and Zach Wilder on drums, brings a stronger rock vibe and sweeps away, just a bit, that softer indie quality that made up their first release.

Recorded at Portland’s Marmoset, it’s evident from the opening tract, “Bar Lights,” that Altadore is reaching for new heights with a catchy guitar chord to start things off followed by Hall’s rolling bass, and then Katz’s vocals pipe in taking charge and making an immediate impact, sounding raw yet subtly refined.

“Clearer” is the most pop-oriented and personal of the group, a love letter of sorts that again is driven by Katz’s vocals and you immediately know where he’s headed from the start: Darling, how could you not recognize my love?/Darling, how could you not justify my love? It’s overtly catchy with a great melody and even the background guitar loop that seemingly fades in and out throughout the course of the song helps cement the arrangement.

“Drink Sipper” carries a shade of Golden Hills with Katz vocals a bit softer and an overall more melancholy vibe to the instrumentation. “Losing You” feels like it’s headed in a similar manner starting off slow as Katz is accompanied by just a soft guitar strum but then suddenly the rest of the band breaks in with an upbeat tempo that takes the song in an entirely different direction. It’s a fun tune that offers some musical complexity and allows Hall to rock out a bit.

Finally, “Cigarette Dances” could be on a “Time Life” baby boomer’s compilation disc as Altadore embodies The Everly Brothers’ “All I have to Do is Dream” and even the title suggests a song favorite your Mom and Dad slow-danced to in the high school gym but that’s about as close as it gets especially with these lyrics: When I figure it out, will I still be here?/Or will I be a wandering ghost?/Will you read my eulogy?

Katz said the album is not as personal as their last effort as the content is more fiction than truth however the subject matter of fleeting love and inner turmoil should resonate for anyone with a pulse. Overall, the vocals step up this go-around as a main instrument rather than a complement to the rest of the band and Katz said in many respects that was deliberate as he was trying for a “slap-back delay” that resembled a hifi tone often heard from 1960’s Motown tracks.

Grade: B+

Check out the full EP below and a profile of the band.

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: U2 Gets Personal in Vancouver, BC

U2 Full Stage

Updated: Night 2 details below

U2 never seems to do anything small, whether it’s the stadium size 360 tour the last go-around or the implant of their latest album in the iTunes account of everyone in the world that has one.

Though they’ve scaled down the size of venue for their current tour in support of their 13th album Songs of Innocence it’s still everything as big as you’d come to expect from the band.

U2 opened their Innocence+Experience tour on Thursday in Vancouver, BC to a sold-out Rogers Arena, the first of two dates that kicks off a year-long trek around the world. By contrast, the Irish foursome ended their last tour in Canada, across the street at BC Place Stadium, a place four times the size of the current digs.

Though nearly every conceivable bit of space is used in the stage configuration (full arena seating and general admission floor), the more intimate setting certainly fits the band well. The main stage is featured at one end of the floor, with a long catwalk extending towards the other side connecting to a smaller round stage which makes an “I” (the main stage) connected to “e” the smaller stage, the logo for the tour. A basketball court length projection screen stretched above and nearly the length of the catwalk and the fun was just starting.

U2 Big Screen

Despite taking the stage 45 minutes after the scheduled start time (come on guys, leave the prima donna act to Madonna) U2 – lead singer Paul Hewson aka Bono, guitarist Dave Evans, aka The Edge, drummer Larry Mullin, Jr. and Adam Clayton on bass – put together a solid 24 song set featuring seven off the new album along with a dynamic stage show that was personal and demonstrative.

The band walked to the stage to the Ramones’ “Beat on the Brat” so it was hardly a guess as to what they’d open with as The Edge fired off that grungy opening to “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone).” Once it got going though, Clayton’s bass guitar overpowered the song which unfortunately wouldn’t be the last time of the evening. From the latest album back to the first, U2 unlocked the vault for “Out of Control” off Boy now 35 years old but sounding as fresh as anything on radio today with those great hooks and a stellar solo by The Edge.

“Vertigo” really brought the crowd to life which continued once that unforgettable introduction to “I Will Follow” the opening tract of Boy rang throughout the arena. Three straight off Songs of Innocence came next as lead singer Bono made his mom proud with his love song to her “Iris (Hold Me Close)” and he just nailed the vocals to the “Hold me close” chorus. Adding some emotional depth to the performance was an old black and white video, likely of Bono in his youth, projecting on the screen with a simultaneous video of Bono singing as if he’s looking back, reflecting on his life.

U2 inside screen

The giant screen featured a walkway down the middle so, as video projected, members of the band could in a sense, get inside the televised image. Bono used this for “Cedarwood Road” taking a trip to his old neighborhood in Ireland as he sang and animated houses streamed by him. The nostalgia continued with “Song for Someone” a nice nod to Bono’s wife Alice Stewart and then U2 got back to harder edge fare with “Sunday Bloody Sunday” as the band stretched out along the catwalk with The Edge on acoustic, and Mullin donning a marching band style snare drum. They slowed the pace of the song a bit and this version worked well.

What worked even better was “Raised by Wolves” the fifth song of the night off the new album that absolutely shined and outdid the studio version. “Until the End of the World” followed and “Invisible” which brought all band members inside the giant screen simply fell flat. Overall, the music drowned out Bono’s vocals and again Clayton’s bass overpowered the speakers often sounding distorted.

U2 set up camp for “Even Better Than the Real Thing” on the opposing smaller round stage where they stayed for “Mysterious Ways” and “Desire.” Bono played the harmonica part to “Desire” and then piano for “Sweetest Thing” which brought back The Edge on acoustic. Bono did not play guitar all night, something he said he might never be able to do again thanks to the bike accident in Central Park last November that resulted in damage to his eye-socket, shoulder, elbow and left hand.

U2 The Edge

The Edge delivered crisp riffs and those well known U2 melodies all night

 

Clayton and Mullin left the stage as The Edge took piano duties giving the floor to Bono and the two simply killed “Every Breaking Wave” adding even more emotional depth to an already emotively strong song. It was everything “Magnificent” should have been on the 360 tour that never was.

 

U2 Bono

Bono croons the audience at Rogers Arena

The slow stuff came to an abrupt end as the hard rocking “Bullet the Blue Sky” came to life outdoing its studio twin from The Joshua Tree and embraced the hard thumping of Clayton’s bass. The rock continued with audience favorite “Pride (In the Name of Love)” before “The Troubles” the final tract on Songs of Innocence and the last one from the album for the evening. U2 closed with radio staple and the favorite of every broken-hearted boy or girl wallowing over a relationship “With or Without You.”

 

“City of Blinding Lights” started the encore and finally another song where Clayton’s bass complemented the rest of the instruments rather than overwhelm everyone on stage. “Beautiful Day” came next and their iconic album The Joshua Tree got even more love with “Where the Streets Have No Name” and finally “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

Considering the sound system used for the tour is supposedly state of the art, the band needs to iron out some kinks with the volume level on the bass and address other elements of distortion including adjusting Bono’s vocals that sometimes came off as muffled under the heavy bass and guitar chords. It was certainly far from ruining the first show as U2 played tight and delivered an energetic and well-though out performance.

Bono, of course, is the ultimate showman, with an almost enchanting stage presence. He displayed no ill effects from his bike accident other than not playing guitar and he knows how to perform and engage the audience. He said fans can expect a different experience from Night 1 to Night 2 so it should be interesting to watch that play out as well in Vancouver as well as the rest of the tour.

U2 Innocence + Experience Tour Setlist in Vancouver, BC – Night 1

1.The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)
2. Out of Control
3. Vertigo
4. I Will Follow
5. Iris (Hold Me Close)
6. Cedarwood Road
7. Song for Someone
8. Sunday Bloody Sunday
9. Raised by Wolves
10. Until the End of the World
11. Invisible
12. Even Better than the Real Thing
13. Mysterious Ways
14. Desire
15. Sweetest Thing
16. Every Breaking Wave
17. Bullet the Blue Sky
18. Pride (In the Name of Love)
19. The Troubles
20. With Or Without You
21. City of Blinding Lights
22. Beautiful Day
23. Where the Streets Have No Name
24. I Still Have Found What I’m Looking For

 

U2 Innocence + Experience Tour Setlist in Vancouver, BC – Night 2

Sound issues fixed, sounded great. Same show except for variation on the setlist.

1. The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)
2. Vertigo
3. California (There Is No End To Love)
4. I Will Follow
5. Iris (Hold Me Close)
6. Cedarwood Road
7. Song for Someone
8. Sunday Bloody Sunday
9. Raised by Wolves
10. Until the End of the World
11. Invisible
12. Even Better Than the Real Thing
13. Mysterious Ways
14. Angel of Harlem
15. When Love Comes to Town
16. Every Breaking Wave
17. Bullet the Blue Sky
18. Pride (In the Name of Love)
19. Beautiful Day
20. With or Without You
21. Miracle Drug
22. Bad
23. Where the Streets Have No Name
24. One

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Rush Rolls Back Time in Tulsa

Rush R40 Tour Tulsa

You’d think a band celebrating 40 years of touring and making music might sound a bit like a band that’s been touring and making music for 40 years.

Not so with the seemingly ageless Rush who is arguably more relevant now than at any time of their career.

The power trio hailing from Toronto, Canada that may or may not be calling it quits at the end of their current R40 tour got off to a stellar start on Friday at the BOK Center in Tulsa, OK in front of a mostly sold-out crowd that watched them stroll back through their extensive catalog of albums starting with the present and ending in a makeshift high school gym.

Geddy Lee R40 Tulsa

Geddy Lee was masterful all night in Tulsa both vocally and on bass guitar

Singer Geddy Lee, at 61 years young, rocked his vocals the entire night and seemed to be having way too much fun on bass as he traded-out guitars on nearly every song. Lee recently started a bass guitar collection and he clearly brought them on tour. The unassuming, always under-appreciated and better than most Alex Lifeson ripped it all night on guitar and the band’s newest member Neil Peart handled the drums proficiently.

As if to say their current music is just as important as their early tunes, Rush started off with not one or two songs off their most recent album Clockwork Angels, but three, the most of any albums represented on the night. After a clever animated film chronicling the band’s start from 1974 to open the show, complete with wardrobe upgrades and hairstyle changes, Rush kicked off with the title song from their 2012 masterpiece, then “The Anarchist” and the absolute rocking “Headlong Flight.”

At this point in the show stage crew began removing and or replacing some of the band’s props eliminating some of the more prominent Clockwork Angel pieces from the last tour for the Snakes and Arrows tour. “Far Cry” was next and then the very overlooked and only instrumental of the night “The Main Monkey Business” both off 2007’s Snakes and Arrows.

The hard fought “One Little Victory” from 2002”s Vapor Trails came next followed by the early 90s in “Animate” off Counterparts and “Roll the Bones” from the same titled album of 1991. Test for Echo, the last album of the 1990s for the band, was only represented by the inuksuk on Peart’s shirt and the last three albums of the 1980s got no love though Power Windows got its due on the last tour. Stage hands continued to remove or replace props throughout the evening and the band finished the first hour-long set with the always great “Distant Early Warning” and finally “Subdivisions” representing the start of the band’s keyboard era off 1982’s Signals.

After a 20 minute intermission which included showing outtakes and bloopers from videos played on the last couple of tours, Rush returned with a different stage set featuring a towering stack of amps, reminiscent of the early 1980s, behind Lee and Lifeson, and Peart added a second bass drum to his kit. Rush, of course, would never not play the iconic “Tom Sawyer” off the iconic Moving Pictures which opened the second set and the second tract and perhaps best song from the album, “Red Barchetta,” followed.

No surprise that “The Spirit of Radio” came next from Permanent Waves released on Jan. 1,  1980 but a big surprise in that “Jacob’s Ladder,” the closer to Side A of that album and a song Rush had not played live in decades finally got stage time. The lasers came out for this one and was a welcome addition to a setlist that so far featured much of the the same material on the previous three tours.

Rush R40 Tour Tulsa Lasers

Lasers were just a part of the stellar show and performance by Rush at Tulsa

The backward trek through the past continued with a medley of sorts starting with Cygnus X-1 Book 2 from Hemispheres that melted into a drum solo and ended with “Cygnus X-1” off A Farewell to Kings. Now knee deep in the 70s, Rush added two more from Kings with “Closer to the Heart” and the double-necks came out for “Xanadu.” The title track to the band’s breakthrough album 2112 a 20-minute seven part suite got reduced by more than half as the band closed out the second-set with the primary radio fare of the song, the third section entitled “Discovery” and the “Grand Finale.”

Once the band left the stage for the encore, a video featuring fellow Canadian Eugene Levy as a tour promoter projected on the large curtain in front of the stage and he introduced the “opening band” Rush and the threesome returned to the stage that by now lost most of the amps, featured a simple drape backdrop, Lee acting like a youngster and even the sound came off somewhat rough just like in the old days.

“Lakeside Park” from 1975’s Caress of Steel started the encore followed by “Anthem” the opening tract off 1975’s Fly by Night the band’s first album with Peart and then as the stage morphed into the Rod Serling High School gymnasium complete with a disco ball, Rush closed out with “What You’re Doing” and “Working Man” off the self-titled debut Rush now more than 40 years old.

Alex Lifeson R40 Tour Tulsa

Alex Lifeson continues to prove he’s one of the best guitarists of all time

 

All told, Rush played for nearly two and half hours with abundant energy and never let up, playing each song with the precision they’re known for. They were tight, sounded flawless except for a bit of excessive treble and distortion at the start, and had no wrinkles to iron out considering this was the tour’s opening night. If they did, the band certainly covered it up well. And, whoever came up with the idea of stripping away the years as the band marched backward in time deserves some extra credit. It certainly added to the overall entertainment package of the R40 tour and kept the audience guessing.

Lee’s bass playing was particularly striking throughout but especially chunky on “Far Cry” and “Roll the Bones.” He sounded just as strong vocally at the onset of the show as he did at the end hitting the high notes without seemingly any difficulty. In fact, he commanded the lyrics just as strong as he did 25 years ago.

Lifeson seemed a bit aloof, not particularly engaging the crowd as he often does, instead focusing on his craft playing with some serious intensity all night. His solos on “Headlong Flight,” “Jacob’s Ladder,” and “Working Man” are something to behold and he really drives “The Main Monkey Business.”

Geddy Lee and Neil Peart

Double bass on Neil Peart’s drum kit

 

Perhaps most notably absent on the R40 tour is the length of Peart’s drum solos. A long-time signature at Rush concerts, Peart pounded out a short one in the middle of “Headlong Flight” but the primary one featured between “Cygnus” wasn’t even half the length of his usual seven to eight minute numbers but still quite impressive especially considering earlier this year it was revealed he battles chronic tendonitis (maybe its arm pump from all the motorcycling) in his arms.

Rush billed the R40 tour as the last of its kind for the band in terms of magnitude which many quickly translated into a farewell tour. All three members seemed to enjoy the time off from their last tour that spanned over two years but now in their early 60s, despite the high level of playing all three manage to perform, it’s clear the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees cannot continue as most of their fans would like.

However, Lee said a few months ago Rush was still a band, seemed to indicate some type of future and while the comical video that concluded Friday’s show could be interpreted as the band walking away from it all, “R40+” displayed prominently on the stage curtain as the crowd dispersed.

Rush R40 Plus

Does this mean more Rush isn’t quite done yet?

 

Rush R40 Tour Setlist in Tulsa, OK

  1. Clockwork Angels
  2. The Anarchist
  3. Headlong Flight
  4. Far Cry
  5. The Main Monkey Business
  6. One Little Victory
  7. Animate
  8. Roll the Bones
  9. Distant Early Warning
  10. Subdivisions
  11. Tom Sawyer
  12. Red Barchetta
  13. The Spirit of Radio
  14. Jacob’s Ladder
  15. Cygnus X-1 Book 2/Drum Solo/Cygnus X-1 medley
  16. Closer to the Heart
  17. Xanadu
  18. 2112
    1. Overture
    2. Temples of Syrinx
    3. Presentation
    4. Grand Finale
  19. Lakeside Park
  20. Anthem
  21. What You’re Doing
  22. Working Man

Written By: AndrewT